Tech Preview: What to Look For at the Consumer Electronics Show

11:02 PM PST 01/03/2011 by Carolyn Giardina
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From 3D TVs to VOD-enabling 4G phones and iPad-killing tablets, an insider’s guide to gadget-crazed Vegas.

In-Vehicle Technology

Your car will soon be as connected as your office.

"The future is a vehicle that is connected all the time and information that is brought to the driver and passengers in a way that useful to them," said Jim Buczkowski, Henry Ford fellow and director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering at Ford Motor Co. That could means streaming entertainment to passengers or real-time information such as traffic reports to drivers.

"The move from 3G to 4G is a strong enabler," he added. "As the technology moves forward, so does our ability to provide more services to the vehicle" including WiFi connections and new apps.

The automotive sector is also looking at voice and gestural controllers as a safety feature.

"Voice recognition is probably one of the leading ways to reduce driven distraction," Buczkowski said. "At CES, gestural recognition is also becoming more important and that is creeping into automotive."

 

Gestural Interfaces

Picture yourself conducting your home computer the way Tom Cruise did as he used hand motions to control his in 2002's Minority Report -- it's in the not-too-distant future, experts said.

With product such as Nintendo's Wii game console, Microsoft's Xbox Kinect and Sony's Move already employing motion-based controllers -- tracking systems that use external camera devices and/or internal sensors -- the gaming industry is ahead of the curve. Word on the street, however, is that the technology is being outfitted for televisions and other consumer devices.

"Once demand is there, people will start to look at other solutions," DuBravac said. "We've only hit the tip of the iceberg in terms gestural-based controls."

 

Tablets

With an estimated 17 million units sold worldwide and about 10.5 million sold in the U.S. alone, tablets were undeniably one of the hottest electronics trends in 2010. And though Apple's iPad was the dominant product (by some accounts commanding 95% of the market share), the tablet business continues to widen.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see 80 new tablets at CES," DuBravac said, suggesting that a variety of sizes and configurations should be expected.

"The success of the category is very new," he said. "How consumers will use the category is still undefined. Some tablets will probably be focused on specific use cases or environments (i.e. students, nursing, retail)."

VUDU's Lichty said: "In general, any device that can connect to the Internet will be somewhere we want to be. It's a safe bet you'll see partner announcements with tablets, around CES. A lot is going to happen." 

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